With its lower-than-average annual fee, this is a solid card for people looking to build credit who do not qualify for an unsecured card.
- Curtis Arnold, Editor-in-chief
Our editor's take
The First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard Secured Credit Card takes a long time to pronounce, but it can shorten the amount of time it takes you to build a solid credit history. Despite a relatively high APR, this card's low annual fee and affordable minimum deposit can put a clean line of credit within the reach of many consumers.
During the credit crunch, it often seemed like banks would pull the plug on secured credit cards altogether. Many subprime lenders used secured cards to line up customers for their more expensive unsecured credit cards for poor credit. Well-known banks turned secured cards into a benefit for customers of their retail branches, while other issuers directed customers with lower than average credit to expanded lines of prepaid debit cards.
Secured credit card for rebuilding after personal finance disaster
This card is best if past financial problems have soured your relationships with other leading issuers of secured credit cards. For instance, an issuer may offer a similarly-priced secured card, but an outstanding balance or a default on a past account would disqualify you from a new account. After all, you can't reasonably expect a lender to accept a security deposit on a new account when you haven't paid off your other debt.
Although retail banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo also offer affordable secured cards, the idea of linking a credit card with a checking or savings account could rightly make you nervous. A problem in one part of your financial life could too easily leak into others, something that a neutral brand like First Progress helps prevent. As part of the Synovus network of regional banks in the Southeast United States, it's likely you won't have any conflicting accounts with First Progress.
How First Progress Platinum Elite compares to other secured credit cards
This card offers a very competitive annual fee and variable APR, compared with other secured credit cards on the market. However, this bank does operate much more slowly than its competitors. According to published terms and conditions, a new account can take as long as three weeks to set up. Payments can be subject to a hold of up to ten days, during which your access to credit could be restricted. Other reviews have pointed out that these issues highlight weaknesses in First Progress' customer service. However, if you're executing an effective, long-term, credit-building strategy, account maintenance speed shouldn't concern you.
According to credit reporting agencies, using a secured credit card to build your credit score requires months of deliberate work. First, you'll use your First Progress card once every month to buy something very small. Then, when your statement arrives, you'll pay it off. Hovering your credit utilization at about 1 percent will give you the best shot at boosting your credit score. This card's lack of other major perks and benefits doesn't matter, since it really should stay locked up at home most of the time. If you plan to use a secured card for anything else other than building a credit history, you may be better off with a prepaid debit card or with a debit card linked to a traditional checking account.
Curtis Arnold Editor-in-chief
First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card details